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Connecting with the little ones

Elizabeth Lauterbach, right, explains a project to her students last week at Primrose School of Woodbury. Lauterbach was recently awarded the "Preschool Educator of the Year" award by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce. Staff photo by Hank Long.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of profiles on the winner of the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce awards for educators, businesses and citizen of the year.

Elizabeth Lauterbach is no stranger to winning awards for her teaching efforts. And neither is the school she works at.

Lauterbach, who teaches at Primrose School of Woodbury, was recently named the "Preschool Educator of the Year" by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce. It's the third consecutive year that a teacher from the private early education center was honored with the award. Something not lost on Lauterbach or Primrose owner and operator Tonya Holt.

"Elizabeth has been such a leader for us and for our kids and parents," Holt said. "It's really no wonder she was nominated for the award, and I'm not surprised she was named the winner. She is super dedicated to her kids and just has a passion for teaching."

Lauterbach, who hails from western Wisconsin, has been working with children in some capacity since she was a high school student. She majored in elementary education while in college, but found out pretty quickly that she enjoyed working with kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students more than any other age level.

"It's such a fun age, to see the perspective that 4-and 5-year olds have on life," said Lauterbach, a St. Paul resident. "Their ears can pick up the smallest sounds from everywhere and they know what is going on around them and aren't afraid to tell you."

Lauterbach has been working with pre-kindergarten students at Primrose for the last 2.5 years. She's been with the school for a little more than three years and said it has been a perfect fit for her career goals and teaching style.

"I like the structure they have and the curriculum is one that is essentially the type of learning you are teaching kids in kindergarten," she said.

The curriculum covers everything from basic reading, math and science skills to helping children develop their social skills, the full days that Primrose students work through mostly year round pay off when they leave for elementary level education, Lauterbach said.

"The day itself is very structured, but the kids have a chance to get their creative juices going as well," Lauterbach said.

The "Preschool Educator of the Year" award Lauterbach will officially accept next month at the Jan. 21 Chamber of Commerce Gala is not the first time the teacher has been honored for her work.

In 2008 Lauterbach was named an "Outstanding Early Childhood Educator" in Washington County.

She said she remains humbled by the recognition, but admits it feels good to know her parents can see the difference she hopes to make in the lives of her students.

"So many times, kids come home from school and parents ask, 'What was your favorite part of the day today?'" Lauterbach said. "They say something like 'Lunch.' But it's always been important for me to have a good relationship with the students and their parents so they know what their kids are learning each day."

Holt said one of Lauterbach's strengths is her rapport with parents and her leadership skills.

"Elizabeth is the one who knows all the names of the kids and the parents, even if they're not in her class," Holt said. "She understands that this is a educational community. She really takes that to heart."

The Woodbury Chamber of Commerce's "Lets Paint the Town" Annual Gala will be Jan. 21 from 6-10 p.m. at the Prom Center in Oakdale. For more information or to purchase tickets visit